Big Event Program



100 Years of Great Beginnings

Oct. 22, 2011, 9:45 a.m., Palmer Auditorium

Weeks before Connecticut College's Centennial Fall Weekend, reports of a Big Event celebrating the College's historic weekend began circulating around campus. Shrouded in mystery, details didn't emerge until the event itself, when students, faculty, staff and alumni told their stories about Connecticut College, all united by the theme of great beginnings. Part oral history, part presentation, part "Glee" performance, "100 Years of Great Beginnings" presented Connecticut College like you've never seen it before.

View the entire event here or watch individual video segments below.

Ben Kegley

Before the show, mason Ben Kegley methodically lays mortar and stones for the corner of a building on the stage. Ben is a member of the Conservation & Inlands Commission for the town of Lyme, where he also serves as Cubmaster of Boy Scout Pack 32. He hails from Old Lyme, Conn.

Anders Nielsen '12

Anders Nielsen '12 plays the mason's apprentice throughout the production — representing the role all students play in building the future of the College. Anders, a theater major, read the oral history monologue of Jay Levin '73 at a Founders Day performance for the College's 99th birthday and performs regularly with the campus improv comedy group N2O. Anders also curates the Friday Night Live music series on campus and writes for The College Voice.

The Big Idea - Watch


The event begins with a video showcasing the big ideas that helped make Connecticut College what it is today. By looking into our history, we will see how it has prepared us for the future.

President Leo I. Higdon, Jr. - Watch

President Leo I. Higdon, Jr., kicks off the event by describing the enduring importance of a liberal arts education at Connecticut College. President Higdon has fostered a number of great beginnings at the College, including an improved and more selective admission profile, an enhanced financial aid program, the Science Leaders Program, and the construction and renovation of many facilities on campus. Under President Higdon, Connecticut College has earned national recognition as a top producer of Fulbright Award winners and Peace Corps volunteers, received the Sen. Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization, and became a member of the President's Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction.

Diane Essis '12 - Watch

In reflecting on a recent visit to her grandmother's village in the Ivory Coast, Diane Essis '12 draws parallels between the support that village provided her mother and the support given to her as a student leader at Connecticut College. Diane is a biological sciences major with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology and a member of the first class of Science Leaders. Diane serves as president of the Student Government Association and volunteers with the Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS) and Think S.A.F.E., a campus group that promotes sexual assault-free environments.

Christina Balkaran '12 - Watch

Christina Balkaran '12 shares her journey to and at Connecticut College, where making sense of astrophysics has helped her make sense of her future. With the support of trustee Maria Pellegrini '69, Christina landed a College-funded internship last summer at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, where she conducted modern astronomical data analyses and analyzed the spectra of stars. She also performed research in the photonics lab of Professor Mohamed Diagne '97 during the summer of 2010, where she learned about the design and fabrication of semiconductors.

Samual Garner '07 - Watch

Samual Garner '07 tells the audience about his experience as a philosophy student and varsity swimmer at Connecticut College and the impact it had on his passion for food ethics. After graduating, Sam earned his master's at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics and now works as a bioethicist for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation in the Division of AIDS (DAIDS), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Tracee Reiser - Watch

Tracee Reiser speaks about the importance of community learning and service through the example of Kids, Books and Athletics, an award-winning program in which Connecticut College students lead physical fitness exercises, teach literacy skills, and inspire healthy choices with New London schoolchildren. Tracee is the associate dean for community learning, associate director of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, and director of the Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS). She has worked to expand community-based learning at Connecticut College and contributed to the creation of both the Holleran Center and the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Teaching for a New Century - Watch

This video illuminates the faculty-student relationship that transcends all Connecticut College experiences. Special thanks to all the faculty and students who participated.

Stephanie Zadravec '90 - Watch

Playwright Stefanie Zadravec '90 reveals how her time at Connecticut College taught her to wrestle with hard questions and find humor in life's tragedies. Stefanie drew from these experiences when she wrote a play about a dying baby while coping with the discovery that her 11-month-old son has a rare, incurable disease. Her play, "The Electric Baby," won the 2011 New York Coalition of Professional Women in Arts and Media Award, is a finalist for the O'Neill Playwrights Conference and has been nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her second full-length play, "Honey Brown Eyes," received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play in 2009 and was published in American Theatre magazine.

My Great Beginning - Watch

We asked students to talk about their great beginnings at Connecticut College. This video illuminates their stories.

Michael Collier '76 - Watch

Michael Collier '76 echoes themes of personal connections, campus beauty and the thrill of learning as he reads the first two stanzas of his poem, "Six Reveries on the Occasion of the Connecticut College Centennial." Michael is an influential leader within the creative writing and teaching community, and is the author of six books of poems, including "The Ledge" (2000), "Dark Wild Realm" (2006) and "An Individual History" (forthcoming 2012). He has served as an editor, translator and, since 1995, has been director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Michael was Maryland's poet laureate from 2001 to 2004 and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Tim Armstrong '93 - Watch

The technologically savvy Tim Armstrong '93 beams himself into Palmer Auditorium to discuss the importance of civic engagement at Connecticut College and beyond. Tim's experience as a double major in economics and sociology eventually led him along a career path that includes key roles at Disney's ABC/ESPN, Snowball.com and Google. Tim is chairman and chief executive officer of AOL and sits on the boards of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Advertising Council and the Advertising Research Foundation.

David Barber '88 - Watch

A sustainable food entrepreneur, David Barber '88 explains how his time at Connecticut College prepared him for the challenges of building a sustainable business and community. David is co-owner of Blue Hill Farm and Restaurants — one of which the Obamas made famous with a date-night visit in 2009. He is also a founder and financial director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit farm and education center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that aims to improve the way America eats and farms.

The Finale - Watch

Richard Schenk

Richard Schenk co-wrote the Centennial Song performed at the closing of the event. Richard joined Connecticut College in 1995 as musician/composer for the dance department, after 10 years as music director at The Ohio State University Department of Dance. He has composed dozens of scores for choreographers and performs on piano, cello, guitar and percussion, in addition to pursuing computer applications for composition and improvisation. Richard is one of the founders of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance and has served on the faculty of the American Dance Festival.




Production Credits

The Big Event was planned and produced by the Centennial Committee, co-chaired by Patricia Carey and Midge Thomas, and the Office of College Relations. It was co-produced and directed by Xplore Productions and Rob Richter '82.

"The Big Idea" Video (2011)
Narrated by Matthew Rolin '13
Edited by David Kahn '06

Centennial Glee (2011)

Music by Richard Schenk; lyrics by Richard Schenk and Ann Schenk M'01; choreography by Jillian Wiseman '14

Band: Richard Schenk, piano; Steven Buttery, drums; Gary Buttery, bass and tuba; Gabe Plummer '14, tenor sax; Sam Garner '07, tenor sax; David Dorfman '81, baritone sax

Singers: Liz de Lise '13, Sammie Shay '13, Candy Taylor '13, Jillian Wiseman '14

Dancers: Marisa Barnard '14, Cassie Desjourdy '15, Meredith Friedman '14, Amanda Greenbaum '14, Alex Michaud '15, Randi Jo Pallis '14, Shanna Polzin '14, Amy Smith '12, Aimee Taterka '14, Jillian Wiseman '14

Special thanks to the students who helped publicize the Big Event: Megan Costello '13, Amy De Genaro '12, Grace Kabel '12, Amanda Lee '13, Barry Liewei Ke '15, Jazmin Long '12, Laura Marenghi '12, Alison McLeod '12, Catherine Mullaley '12, Matthew Murdock '13, Amy Newman '12, Alicia Rae '12, Amelia Smith '14, Tom Schrader '12, Emily Sollars '12